What would it take to fix the New York City subway system? In a presentation at The Company, 333 Madison Ave., on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m., Professor of History Clifton Hood will explore the history of NYC’s underground transit system and offer solutions to improve it for 21st century city-dwellers.
The author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York, Hood has written and lectured extensively on New York City and its subway system. New York city and mass transit are two of his areas of academic focus, and he teaches a course at HWS on the history of New York City.
Tickets are available for purchase here. A discount is available for HWS community members. Use the discount code: HWS10.
New York’s subway system played a large role in shaping the city as it is today, says Hood. “It took rapid transit to bring diverse social groups into regular contact,” he explains in an article in The Gotham Gazette. Although initially meant to serve the needs of the mercantile elite, the subway as it developed “was conceived by progressive reformers as an ambitious experiment in social planning designed to alleviate urban poverty and to assimilate immigrants.” Recently, Hood presented on the topic of the NYC subway system at Open House New York, as part of “The Moving City: Transportation Infrastructures of New York,” a year-long series of tours, conversations and debates about the future of transportation and mobility.
Throughout its more than 100-year history, the subway system grew from one line, the IRT, which ran from City Hall to the Bronx, to a comprehensive system that links Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and delivers more than 1.72 billion rides annually.
The system has, however, faced challenges from the start. Hood says that one of the earliest problems was related to the diversity of the riders. “When the pressure of ethnic, gender and class differences were added to overcrowding and to the claustrophobia of being below ground, the riding experience could be anxiety-provoking,” Hood says.
Fiscal issues, too, have dogged the subway’s operating agency, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, from the beginning — and with lack of adequate funding came poorly-maintained and repaired cars, stations and lines, and a reputation for lateness that still exists today.
Hood says his talk will address some of the system’s current problems and recommend potential solutions. “The core problems are that the subways are badly overcrowded during rush hour, often break down, are underfunded, and don’t reach many parts of the city, called subway deserts,” he says.
The event sponsor, The Company is an innovative collaborative venture that houses a community of top-tier companies from startups to large enterprises. “It’s a consortium of entrepreneurs interested in finding market solutions to contemporary problems,” says Hood. Recent speakers include former president of Ireland Mary Robinson and best-selling author and research professor Brené Brown.